Ghandi and Bin Laden: Religion at Extremes

Priscilla Proctor, Coordinator of College and Public Relations, reported to the St. Augustine local news desk at Historic City News that James Rowell, Ph.D., assistant professor of religion at Flagler College, will hold a signing for his book, “Ghandi and Bin Laden: Religion at Extremes”.

The book signing is scheduled to be held on Saturday, February 20th at 3:00 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Jacksonville.

Rowell says there are few historical or religious figures who seem more contradictory than Mohandas Ghandi and Osama bin Laden, and that is the premise of the book. Ghandi believed religion’s highest ideals called for a path of absolute nonviolence, while bin Laden has continued to advocate violence.

Rowell, who teaches several religion courses at Flagler, got the idea for his book while working on his dissertation at the University of Pittsburgh. His dissertation was based partially on Ghandi and nonviolence.

“I had a great love of Ghandi, nonviolence and his idea, especially of inclusive, tolerant religion – that there was a universal sort of calling to all faiths,” he said.

Rowell completed his work in 2002, just as the world was coming to terms with 9/11. It occurred to Rowell that bin Laden was using his own brand of religious extremism as a justification for violence. So Rowell became fascinated by these two extremes – Ghandi and bin Laden – and began studying bin Laden in order to understand how two individuals who were both claiming to be religious leaders could be at such extremes.

“It’s very important that we try to recapture non-violence,” he said.

Rowell has twice taught a course called “Gandhi and bin Laden” since coming to Flagler in 2006. He currently teaches “Global Religion and Politics” and “God, Ape and Man.”

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